Cooking for A Fishing & Hunting Lodge in Alaska 2
Where living is working
The best part for remote employment, if your working terms are in order, are no rent payments, no utility bills, free transportation and free food. These are the 'must haves' otherwise, the several months' sacrifices does not mean anything much of the ordinary employment.
Cooking for remote Alaska is provincial, period. Most local inhabitants have limited education; limited perspective of the world's culture, limited exposure to the 'what's going on with the rest of the world,' and these does not include the latest evening news. Local inhabitants are a closely-knit nucleus of blood relatives. Despite their squabbles that can run from the trifle to disturbing, they soldier on to support one another in times of shortage. This is necessary when your nearest big grocery is 12 hours away by boat or a half-hour flight. As a non-blood relative without substance vices,
I have to charm local co-workers with my ethics, humble my sophisticated perspectives, work and live conscientiously. It was not always successful. I realized then that I would be bonding more with Dallas, and other dogs because I simply find it joyless to socialize amongst smokers and hard-core drinkers. I found the company of Dallas and other dogs more peaceful. Even though I elected not to get into the middle of village squabbles, there was no escaping it. One gets pulled into that brewing bickering. I maintained my 'sanity' until a family of slave drivers questioned why I would take a nap in the afternoon.
When guests are present, it is not uncommon to work more than 12 hours a day or in my case, even 18 hours a day starting at 5 a.m. When I had to be the 'all do-getter,' my two hour nap to recharge my batteries was a necessity. Dinner preparation starts at four o'clock in the afternoon, and the activity does not stop till 10 p.m. or later. In a remote lodging industry, to make your guests super happy, one has to cater to them as much as the remoteness of the place can provide.
It was grateful existence in a lot of ways not to have encountered diva-esqueness among the guests. Most guests that I served understood the limitations of remote Alaskan living.
The 21st century tehnological entertainment is only available via satellite in these remote Alaskan communities. Bad weather means get alternate entertainment after the fishing and hunting trips. The nearest economical short commute entertainment is... bear viewing at the village dumpster.
I had redefined their bear dumpster viewing as the local drive-in theater. The appearance of the bear photo with this article is evidence of getting a too-close-a-shot. The only female to accompany the all-male guests, I was seated in front of a clunky suburban SUV with a huge bowl of food scraps. After five minutes of waiting, the local sow with three cubs approached our vehicle. The driver, owner of the lodge, born and bred in the island, fully-rolled down the window. My hysteria and prodding didn't convince him to roll up the window. Me holding the food bowl meant "take me I'm lunch." Chivalry evaporated swiftly when none of the big hulking male accepted to hold the food bowl in my place. It was a relief when the driver took the food bowl and poured it on the ground; and thus the sow's family had a fiesta right under our noses.
It was scary to be that close next to a mother grizzly bear with cubs. A legend amongst the locals that this guy, our driver, and another older woman are the only two people who can approach the local bears without the bears feeling threatened. The driver has said that the mother bear and him have 'known' each other since the mother bear was a cub. Therefore, there is that certain familiarity and comfort. There was only one bear attack incident in this village of 250 people and reducing. And that was over 20 years ago when a bear attacked a dog. There are only brown bears or grizzlies in this part of Alaska, and they are known to be the biggest of their kind. I have lived and worked in this village for four seasons with months of lull time and I have not heard any other bear incidents. The co-existence with bears and wildlife is idyllic.
The closest face-to-face encounter for me were two instances: 1) Right outside the lodge's door, a bear was answering an invite of improperly disposed halibut carcasses; and then 2)While I was sitting on a rock by the creek watching Dallas catch spawning chum salmon. Even though Dallas ran after the bear, the bear just ignored Dallas and trotted to the water. There was no threat of attack. Dallas finally obeyed all my yelling for her to come to me. I watched as the bear just hang out and then ran back to the woods.
My dog, Dallas, had shown great independence of her dinner selections. She caught more chum salmon than I could carry, to her disappointment. To carry four spawning chum salmon while traversing the rocky beach of Larsen Bay was no feat. I would hate to meet a bear who would steal Dallas's dinner. As soon as I arrived in the kitchen, I would boil the fish in plain water, add oats, then simmer until the oats are soft, and would let it cool down. Dallas would chow down her salmon dinner with so much gusto. I once tried to share this meal to the pilot's dog, and Dallas did not like sharing her hard-fishing prize. She has every right to complain, since she caught them herself. Selfish lab.
In most instances regarding meal planning, I found Dallas' s industriousness to provide freshly-caught fish more reliable...if only I could also feed these to the guests. Chum salmon is considered dog food according to locals, because these salmon does not taste as good as the king, red or silver species. I would have loved to serve chum salmon, because I have somebody who would help me stock up the freezer. I don't fish and don't have time to fish, so relying on the owner, when not drunk, may bring fish for me to serve the guests. Otherwise, when sobriety becomes a challenge...chicken it is.
Ordinarily, these remote lodges blindly hire their employees. When I was hired over the phone, the only question that I had to answer correctly was "Can you start this coming Saturday?" Thus, my Larsen Bay journey began.